I see this a lot with submissions. I read a fantastic pitch and think I have found the most amazing story out there, and then... the project shows up and it is not anything like what I first read. The same applies for reading a partial and then reading the synopsis (or visa versa) to find, once again, these seem like two different projects. What happened???
While a lot of you might think it really doesn't matter. It is the story that counts the most, and, at some level, that is entirely true. But we have to stop and consider the role the pitch and the synopsis plays and the connection each has with the actual manuscript.
Remember that the pitch needs to draw us into a project. It is that first element of marketing your book. But, if that pitch misleads or misguides the editor or agent, you are already starting down the wrong path. I will explain further below. As for the synopsis, we use this document to really see where the full story is going to when we read only a partial. In the end, these two projects need to be a 100% mirror and glimpse into the project.
You would be surprised, but this is a pretty common problem for authors and can be attributed to several things:
1) Sending the wrong file - This is one of the biggest problems and I am sure we have all done this. If you are like me, you have multiple versions of roughly the same project on our computer. You may have simply sent an earlier version of the document before you did changes. SOLUTION - Read before you send. If there were changes, fix 'em!
2) Writing a pitch that you want the story to be - This one happens because of two things. The first is that the author really doesn't know what he or she is writing. But, more common, authors have been spending too much time to wordsmithing that pitch and premise and it slowly turns into something it isn't. SOLUTION - Keep it to the facts. For the pitch, tell us the basics about the book and what makes the story stand out. For the synopsis, just tell us the plot, but make sure that it is the current story.
3) Writing a synopsis before writing the story - This also has two different potential causes. The first is if you are a plotter and wrote what you thought you were going to write, but then sat down and let the story take over. The second is if you wrote the story and synopsis, and then went and rewrote the story. SOLUTION - Again, just rewrite or edit before sending.
4) Not knowing what to highlight - In this case, the author spends a lot of time highlighting things that are really secondary to the plot. Again, the solution is easy. SOLUTION, See the earlier comments.
We are pretty flexible if these are small mistakes, but do remember, with a pitch or an initial query, this may be a one shot deal. Check before you send!